Island Spirit can rise to the challenge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:00am

Underrated trainer Peter Ng Bik-kuen has turned around the career of Island Spirit. In mid February he was a zero-from-17 duffer, but suddenly he's aiming at a hat-trick in the seventh event.

Ng's partnership with Anthony Delpech has also been a significant one this season. The former South African champion has won 14 races on Ng-trained horses from 89 rides, a strike rate of 15.7 per cent.

A further eight second placings for the stable means Delpech has finished in the quinella spot on almost 25 per cent of his rides for the respected local handler.

Island Spirit had the visor removed for his 18th start at Happy Valley on February 23 and the results came immediately, defeating Rainbow Diamond by a half length.

At his next outing, Island Spirit took a weight rise from 124 to 129 pounds in his stride, this time bolting clear to score by 21/2 lengths, again in Class Four company.

Tonight, Island Spirit takes the step up to Class Three but the rise in grade is more than compensated by a big drop in weight. On this occasion, he will carry only 113 pounds and will receive 16 pounds from topweight Fortune Smiles. When the John Size-trained Fortune Smiles last raced in Class Three, he won over 1,800 metres in a high-rating race. Since then, he has been competing in Class Two and while he has been placed three times, he has been unable to win at the higher level.

If the drop in class is not enough to tripwire the alarm bells, the engagement of champion jockey Douglas Whyte should be. Not only does Fortune Smiles have the leading jockey on top, but he has drawn perfectly in barrier four.